President and Chief Executive Officer John Mara
September 3, 2020
Opening Statement: I just want to briefly say I’ve been very pleased so far with how camp has gone, particularly given the circumstances that we’re dealing with. I think our coaching staff and our office staff have done a great job. We’re excited about starting the season. With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q: Thinking back to January when you hired Joe Judge and the thoughts and impressions that he made, what you’ve seen over the last three and a half weeks, has it confirmed what you thought? I know no games have been played, but what are your thoughts of your coach right now?
A: I’ve been very pleased so far. The things that are noticeable to me are the amount of teaching that goes on on the field. It’s like nonstop. I think the intensity of the practice. I think the communication that he has with the players, on football and non-football issues. I’ve always been very, very impressed with the staff that he’s put together. There’s a lot of experience on that staff, and I feel very confident that we’re in a good place right now in terms of trying to get these players to perform at their best.
Q: Is it anything compared to what you’ve seen through your history here watching training camps with the Giants that you think back to that gives you some flashbacks?
A: Every coach, every staff has its own unique personality, their own unique methods. The combination of the intensity of the practices plus the amount of teaching that goes on, the communication level and the way the players seem to be buying into it, I just feel good about all that. I’m not going to compare him to anybody else. So far, I like what I see. But as you pointed out, we haven’t played a game yet. There’s a lot left to see. But so far, I think we’re in a good place with what they’ve done with this team.
Q: It seems like Joe talks a lot about a long-term plan, a long-term process and a vision. I’m assuming that’s something that you’ve bought into. I’m wondering though if your general manager is on the same timeline in your mind, in terms of having the patience? You talked about at the end of last year him having to improve his batting average, things like that. Are they sort of tied together in your mind?
A: It’s interesting you say it because it was one of the things that sold us on Joe, is that he sees the big picture and he sees the long-range picture. That was something that was clear to us in the interview that we did with him back in January, and he’s only reinforced that since. But I think the communication between the two of them has been excellent. I think they are on the same page. When they disagree about something, they talk it out and they come to a conclusion. That’s all I can expect from them, is that they’re both reasonable, they talk it through, and then they come to a decision. At the end of that, it’s the New York Giants’ decision, it’s not either one of theirs. So far, I’ve been very pleased with that. In terms of a timeline, they both want the same thing. They want to build a good foundation here and set us up to be able to compete for Super Bowls. I think we’re off to a good start with this combination.
Q: There was some speculation I saw given the current economic climate that some people were wondering if the Giants might be for sale. Is that something that has ever entered your mind?
A: No. No, it hasn’t. We’re in this for the long haul.
Q: In terms of the social justice initiatives that Roger Goodell has supported very vocally and very strongly in recent weeks, what is your stand on that? I know you welcomed the start of the video that was played on Friday night, but you’ve also expressed reservations in correspondences you’ve received over the years from fans, particularly during the time when players took a knee. What is your stance, and is there any concern on your part that this might affect the NFL in terms of its popularity?
A: I’ve never expressed any reservations about my feelings about that. My position about that back in 2017 is the same as it is now in terms of, I’ll support any player’s right to engage in silent protest. What makes it easy for me to do that is when I see how much work they’re doing in the community and how important what is going on in this country right now is to each of them. They back it up with actions, not just words. My position now will be the same as it was back then. In terms of the social justice initiative, our players are very engaged in working in a lot of different areas. They asked me to take part in that video last week and I was happy to do that. We had a great meeting, Joe and I, with our leadership group last week to talk about some of the things that we want to do in the future. I’m going to support our players, particularly when they engage in the type of activity that they have been off the field. They’ve been fantastic about that, so I’m going to continue to support them. I understand the fact and accept the fact that that’s not going to be necessarily popular with certain segments of our fan base, but I think it’s the right thing to do.
Q: Obviously, this is an unprecedented offseason with a lot of challenges. Are you going to factor that into your evaluations? More for Dave (Gettleman) than Joe, but at the end of the season, is that going to be a big factor for you?
A: I think you have to certainly consider everything, yeah. I think this is the 60th training camp that I’ve been to in my lifetime, and I’ve never experienced anything like this before. It’s just a unique set of circumstances. But I’m very pleased with the way they have dealt with it and the communication that’s gone on. Obviously, I want to win some games, but I feel good about the direction that we’re heading in right now. I want to feel that way in January as well, but I have every reason to expect that I will.
Q: I know you’re never going to give a win total, but what would qualify as successful? You said you want to see progress. What do you need to see this year?
A: I want to feel like when we walk off the field after the last game that we play, whenever that is, that we’re moving in the right direction. That we have the pieces in place to compete for a Super Bowl, and that the combination of people that we have here is going to work going forward. That’s what Steve (Tisch) and I need to feel like. I think we give the same answer every year because that’s truly what it is. You can’t pin it to a certain win-loss total, but you just want to feel like this group that we have together right now is building something that’s going to compete for a championship.
Q: Given the answer you just gave, and I certainly understand what you said and respect your reasoning, what would you say to the Giants fan who hears that and says, ‘But my gosh, could we at least play competitive games in December? Can we at least make a run at the NFC East again?’?
A: That’s certainly what we want to do. That’s certainly what our goal is, and I’ll be very disappointed if we’re not in that situation. But I can’t sit here and say we have to win a certain number of games otherwise I’m going to blow the whole thing up. Again, I think Steve (Tisch) and I agree that we just need to feel like we’re building something that’s going to compete for a championship. If we’re able to play meaningful games in December, that would obviously be a sign that we are doing that.
Q: You’ve been one of the more moderate owners. Have you, when you talk to other owners around the league, felt them changing and coming more towards your stance?
A: I think that’s a fair statement. I think there’s been more of an acceptance of the fact that players have the right to engage in peaceful protests. I think there has been a change over the last three or four years, especially given what’s gone on in this country. I can’t say that everybody feels that way, but I definitely have felt things moving in that direction, yes.
Q: The COVID-19 pandemic, I can’t believe we haven’t gotten there yet. How confident are you that the NFL will play all 256 of its games here without interruption as you see what’s gone on around the rest of the league? Are you more confident now than you were maybe in March or April?
A: I would say I don’t know about all 256 games or whatever it is, but I am definitely more confident now than I was. If you had asked me in March or April, I would have had serious doubts about that. But given the way the protocols have worked so far and given the very low rate of positive tests, I think we have a good chance of playing a full season. Obviously, there are going to be some setbacks during the season that we’ll have to deal with. But I think we have the protocols and the process in place that we’ll be able to deal with it. If it means postponing a game here or there or making it up, I think we’ll be able to do that. Time will tell. But right now, I think the players and the staff have done a great job of being responsible. As I said, our testing results so far have been terrific. I never would have believed that we would have had so few positive tests, and I hope I’m not jinxing it by saying that. But it’s worked very well so far.
Q: On the social justice questions, forgive me if this was addressed, but the anthem, you said you’d support guys in their causes and their community work. Will you support guys who kneel during the anthem?
A: Yes, we’ll probably talk about that with the players possibly sometime during the week. I’ll say the same thing to them that I said to the group in ’17, and that is my preference is everybody stand, but if you decide that in your conscience you think taking a knee is the right thing to do, I’m going to support your right to do that because I believe in the First Amendment and I believe in the right of people, especially players, to take a knee in silent protest if that’s what they want to do.
Q: I know you say you don’t want to compare coaches, which is understandable. But in the early days of the Tom Coughlin era, you lived through a coach who had a lot of rules, seemed strict, practices were hard, and it didn’t work out right away with the players. They didn’t like it. Why do you think that this time is different with a similar coach?
A: I would say it ended up working out pretty well under Tom Coughlin. It was his second year we were in the playoffs there. I think the players have bought into this so far. I don’t see any indication that they haven’t, and I think that the combination of the intensity, the discipline plus the teaching that’s going on I think is going to pay off for us in the long run. It’s a fairly young team, so a lot of those guys don’t know any better. They went through tough programs in college and I don’t think this is any great shock to their systems.
Q: Is this the type of coaching you like to see? Toughness, discipline, that type of thing?
A: There is not any one style that works. Every coach has his own style. I just want to see results at the end of the day. I do think that what Joe has done so far has been something that gives me some confidence that we’re moving in the right direction. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be about wins and losses.
Q: You guys had a couple of players that were arrested this offseason. I know you’ve since released one of them, DeAndre (Baker) is still on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. But I’m just curious how involved you get when things like that happen, and kind of what your feelings are, particularly about DeAndre’s case, which was pretty alarming? He’s still kind of hanging around the roster. I was just curious what your thoughts were?
A: It’s obviously very disappointing when that happens. We certainly did not see that coming. A decision will be made sooner rather than later on that. Aldrick (Rosas), that was disappointing too because we knew he had an issue with a previous DUI before, but he seemed to be doing well. He had a Pro Bowl year a couple years ago and is just a good person. It was very disappointing to see that happen. The DeAndre thing was a shock. There was no indication coming out of college… I listen very closely in those draft meetings when they talk about players and their backgrounds and whatnot, and particularly when you’re talking about a first-round player. There was no indication that we should be concerned about any criminal activity. That was a big disappointment.
Q: Following up on an earlier question on social justice, you focused a lot in your response on what the players are doing and your participation in the video, your support of the players. My question is Troy Vincent earlier this week, he had talked about, in speaking with players, they want for the league and for influential and wealthy owners to use their political leverage to sort of hold accountable those officers who mis-stepped. I’m curious what you’ve learned listening to your Black players, staff, fans over the last few months? Outside of your vocal support for players and their First Amendment rights, are there any further actions you as an individual plan to take?
A: I think, and this is something I think we’re going to do on a league-wide basis, one of the things we would like to do is get our players in front of some of our local political leaders, be it the governor, the mayor, maybe the police chief, just to talk about what steps are being taken going forward to affect some sort of change. I will tell you this, one of the most memorable team meetings that I’ve ever been involved with took place I guess right after the George Floyd murder when we had a Zoom call with the players. I listened to the players talk about their own experiences growing up dealing with law enforcement and whatnot. To see the raw emotion that came out of them, guys got very, very emotional talking about it, it was something that really was an eye-opener for me. Then to see how they reacted since then and all of the work they’ve put in in their communities and in our local community here has been really gratifying. It makes it easy to want to support them going forward.
Q: How optimistic are you that you might get fans into the stadium at some point this year? What’s your thought process on you go to Dallas and they’ll have fans there? It really depends on the team and the area of the country on whether they’re going to have fans in the stadium.
A: We’re not going to have fans certainly in September. I’m hopeful that at some point we can have them back in. But I have to say I’m not all that optimistic about that. In terms of there being fans in other buildings where we go, that’s just the way it’s going to be. We had a league meeting a couple weeks ago, I think I made the statement that we just have to accept the fact that this is going to be an unusual year. It’s not necessarily going to be competitively fair in the sense that some teams are going to have fans in the building, some teams are not. That’s just the way it is, and we have to deal with it. Certain areas of the country are going to be a little more liberal about letting people in the building. That’s just something that we’re going to have to accept and move forward.
Q: A follow up on a previous thing. You talked about you want to see progress. You just want to see the team move forward. Your fans, I’m sure a bunch of them would say, ‘Well, we’ve waited already X number of years.’ At what point do you need to see wins?
A: I get that. I hear that. Believe me, I hear that in the correspondence I get from them. Again, it’s pretty hard to sit here and say we need to win x number of games, we need to be in the playoffs this year. We made some big changes over the last few years, and I think we’re starting to build a foundation that can last over the long haul. That’s what Steve (Tisch) and I want to see at the end of the year. Are we moving in the right direction? I know that’s not going to satisfy a lot of our fans, but I just think it’s the right philosophy to have.
Q: The DeAndre Baker and Aldrick Rosas situations, how do those situations in your mind impact your evaluation of Dave Gettleman, if at all? I’ll let you answer that. I have a competitive advantage question, too.
A: First of all, the Aldrick thing, if I’m not mistaken, we acquired him before Dave was here. That can happen on any team. The DeAndre Baker thing was just something we did not see coming. I read some stories saying there were red flags about him, but not in the sense that you would be concerned about criminal conduct at all. Obviously, it’s something that’s embarrassing to the organization. It’s just something that we’re going to have to deal with. It happens from time to time. Fortunately, 99.9 percent of our players are good citizens. This was one that just we didn’t see coming and it’s something that we’re going to have to deal with.
Q: On the competitive advantage side, how do you feel about two things. One, the concept of a potential playoff bubble? I know that’s been floated. Then also, the idea of an uneven record? So, you could win more games than the Dallas Cowboys, but they have a higher percentage of wins of games they played because you didn’t get all of your games in.
A: Yeah, we’ve had discussions about that. I know the committee that’s been put together to advise the Commissioner is going to weigh in on that. If that’s the case, then so be it. As I just said a little while ago, we have to accept the fact that this is an unusual year. It’s not necessarily going to be competitively fair 100 percent of the time, and we’re just going to have to do the best we can. There could be a situation where you play more games than somebody else, and maybe you win more games but your winning percentage isn’t as high. It’s just something that we’re going to have to accept. We may not like it when it happens, but we’re dealing with such unusual circumstances that we just have to be reasonable about our medical people and certainly with the NFLPA going forward. We went through months of discussions with the PA over the protocols, and I think we came to a good place. We’ll continue to have discussions going forward with them. The communication there has been very good. As I said, I think we’re in a good place right now. Hopefully, we’ll try to maintain that.
Q: I’m curious when you look across the league the last week or so, there has been some talk about whole teams or maybe even individual players boycotting a game or sitting out a game. Some teams have skipped practice out of the social justice protests. Just your thoughts on those things going on and your reaction if any of your players would come to you and say that was something that they wanted to do?
A: I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about that. I think the important thing for us, and Joe has been great at this, is that we continue to communicate with the players. We continue to listen to them, and we try to get on the same page in terms of what message we want to be sending to our fans and to the community at large. I think that’s what we’re going to continue to do and continue to focus on, and not worry about hypotheticals about what might occur in the future. I just think it’s probably the wrong thing to do at this point in time. But so far, the communication with our players has been great. They know that we support them and we’re going to continue to do that.
Q: Just a quick follow up on what you mentioned and then what I was going to ask. You said you mentioned it’s the wrong thing to do. Were you referring to speaking in hypotheticals about this situation or about players boycotting?
A: I don’t want to get into hypotheticals about when the next incident happens, are you going to be concerned about if players go to boycott. We’ll continue to have communications with our players. I’m not going to worry about that. I think it’s useless to do that. I think the important thing is that we just continue to listen to them and talk to them and try to make a meaningful impact in our communities, which I think they’ve done a great job with so far. That’s what our focus is going to be going forward.
Q: What’s your confidence level, I mean a lot of people look at Daniel Jones and say, ‘hey, the jury’s still out.’ What’s your confidence level that this guy will be your franchise quarterback long-term, and what do you need to see from him this year?
A: Yeah, I feel good about him right now, the amount of work he’s put in, the way he’s looked at camp. I’d like to see him take the next step this year. I’m confident that he will do that. The thing that is gratifying to me is that I know our coaching staff is very high on him right now. Guys that have been around successful quarterbacks in the past, and they think that he has what it takes to get us to the next level. Every indication so far is that he does have what it takes. I feel good about where Daniel is right now. Obviously, we want to see him move to the next level. But I think he did a good job last year. Obviously, he had the issue with the turnovers. But he showed a lot of grit and a lot of promise and made a lot of big plays. I think with the right supporting cast around him, I think the sky is the limit for him.
Q: You’ve always been a guy that’s very much in touch with the fans and care deeply about them. This has got to be killing you that there are no fans in the stadium this year, maybe for the whole eight home games. I’m curious, have you been on the phone a little extra with Phil Murphy, the governor, saying, ‘hey, we could do this in October. We could do this in November’?
A: I’ve had a couple conversations with the governor, and we are very supportive of what he’s been doing so far. The most important thing is the health and safety of our players and staff, and the fans entering the building. If we get to a point where the state believes that we can do this safely, then we’ll consider letting fans in the building. But I’m not sure that we’re at that point right now, so I think we just have to be supportive of what the Governor is trying to do. That’s what our position is.
Q: Just a follow up, like you said, this is about your 60th training camp. This offseason, has it been the most difficult as far as COVID and the social unrest? Has this been the most difficult offseason that you’ve seen?
A: Yeah, I would say so. I would say so. There were a number of issues… I spent about over a year in negotiations for a new CBA, we were able to get that done in March, and then the pandemic hits and we jump right back into negotiations to try to make sure that we can have a training camp and have a season. We were able to get that done. Then you have a new coaching staff in here and they have no offseason on-field work at all. It’s all virtual. It was a difficult, difficult offseason. But if you had told me back then that we’d be where we are right now, about to start the season, then I would have been very pleased with that. I think we managed it very well.